Oya Femtech was founded in 2021 by Mitchella Gilbert at UCLA’s Venture Accelerator. The fairly young brand is all about creating high-quality sportswear that prioritizes women’s health. Quite unknown to most, leggings can be quite bad for your vagina. Who knew? That’s where Gilbert started with a shattering discovery as an athlete. “Funnily enough, people get yeast infections all the time,” states Gilbert. “In college, I trained when I’d get stressed; you can follow my Instagram I’ve been starting to work out more. So, I’m working out a lot, and I’m at UCLA at the OBGYN with another yeast infection because life is stressful. And she tells me to stop wearing leggings. And I was like, ‘What!?’ because I’ve been living in these pants for, like, a decade at this point.” That’s what sparked Gibert’s interest in athletic apparel with purpose. Gilbert knows just how much difficulty Black women and people go through in the healthcare system, and we all know it’s not fair. She’s just doing her part to try to bridge the gap just a little bit.
Actress Sophia Bush is one of the brand’s investors and a long-time supporter. Gilbert’s journey with entrepreneurship is one that surely many women understand. It’s a trek to take, but so worth it when you see that you’re making a difference. The Oya leggings are the first of its kind. They’ve been physician-tested and athlete approved, with over 60 medical professionals and 200 product testers supporting product development. The brand uses the talents of femme engineers to ensure that these leggings are the best thing for your vaginal health.
Oya contributes to women’s health by donating to different health initiatives, and its most recent campaign, called “Mind Your Own Uterus,” empowered women and folx with vaginas to take control over their physical, mental, and vaginal health. “Things that focus on helping women find voices, things that focus on women taking care of their periods, things that support female athletes, we put our money where our mouth is,” she tells ESSENCE. “I would say beyond just our nonprofit partnerships and beyond the apparel brand, I honestly think it’s about adding to the discourse.” The brand does “vagina IQ quizzes” because even women don’t know much about their own bodies, and having the right language and knowledge of where everything is, is important.
Gilbert holds pop-ups and speaking engagements quite often. Recently at one of those speaking engagements, a middle schooler came up to Gilbert. She went on to explain what her brand was about, and then the middle schooler ran away. “I’m like, Oops, sorry. I scared the middle school. And she comes back with her mom. She’s like, buy these now. And the woman’s like, what is special about these and was like, stop asking me questions, you just get me these pants.” That middle schooler didn’t have the language to apply to how her body was feeling, but Gilbert and her brand helped her to feel just enough empowerment to help her take care of her own physical health.
Through the brand’s “Mind Your Own Uterus” campaign, Gilbert was able to highlight a really good point about abortions — many female executives and CEOs have had them. It’s not an easy decision, yes, but they would not be where they are without at least the option to choose.
Gilbert wants Oya Femtech to be an “Amazonian Tribe,” she tells ESSENCE. The most important thing for the brand’s future, according to Gilbert, is increasing empowerment within women and expanding her team with other brilliant women who are capable of changing the landscape of sportswear for women. “I’m really looking forward to building out a team of badass, take no shit women.”
The sportswear industry is pretty much entirely run by cis men, and Gilbert is taking strides in changing that narrative with Oya Femtech. From the inside out, the brand is woman-centered, which in turn makes their products worth wearing because that shows true care. Putting actions to words and practicing what you preach — that’s what founder Mitchella Gilbert stands for when it comes to women’s health.